Someone named “chefguy” who recommends putting olive oil in the pasta pot during cooking? You are killing me dude…absolutely killing me…how’s it going to absorb the sauce when it’s coated with oil?
My second prep job out of c-school was at an Italian restaurant…the exec chef was PSYCHO about pasta prep…yes, he was Tuscan…it goes with the territory I’m told…
His rules of thumb…they work…this place (St. Louis Italian landmark) prints money.
use a big pot…pasta sticks during cooking because it comes in contact with each other…less contact…less sticking…you don’t need oil…
Very hot water, always a rolling boil…we had gas burners with 4 inch clearance…they had two settings for cooking pasta…off and raging…if the water is raging…you won’t need to stir the pasta except to get it to fall down in the pot…the boil action will do it for you
salt the water until it tastes like the sea (ocean for Americans) it adds flavor to the pasta…we also used sea salt for the pasta prep at restaurant…I use kosher at home…it doesn’t make that big of difference to me and sea salt can be expensive
Cook the pasta one minute less than recommended for each 4 minutes recommended on the package…For example…penne that Barilla says should cook for 10-12 minutes should cook for 8 minutes in the water (of course you can always taste it to see the cloudy center mentioned earlier…but the 1 to 4 minute method has never done me wrong at home)
Take the pasta directly from the pot to the sauce. The sauce should be made/warmed in a sauce pan (crazy concept isn’t it?) not a pot. If you want to use a strainer, I recommend an in-pot strainer…but at the restaurant…we used tongs…with practice, you can grab a single pasta serving with tongs in your sleep
Toss the pasta with those tongs in the sauce for one minute…if you want to add, parm, olive oil, parsley, red pepper flakes…etc…do it now…
Lift the pasta, now sauced with the tongs into the bowl…DO NOT dump the pasta into the bowl…you always get too much sauce…if it’s too dry with the tongs…you will have leftover sauce in the sauce pan…spoon it on top of the pasta
The only time we rinsed our pasta was for cold pasta salads and stuffed pasta (so we wouldn’t burn our fingers during piping)…you do this immediately after completing the cooking time in the boiling water to stop the cooking process to not overcook the pasta.
If you go to sucky Italian restaurants and you look in their kitchen and see millions of plastic containers (they look like mesh tubes with hooks) lying around…that is because they pre-cook their pasta then finish it off in raging hot water, then dump it in the sauce…it’s impossible to time this correctly and it doesn’t work…the pasta gets rubbery.
Some more of my random pasta thoughts:
–I can’t recommend any American dried brands…they taste like nothing…Barilla is good…decechio (or something like that) is better (and I’ve seen them both in Kroger’s, Marsh, Food Lion, etc.)
–My favorite sauce…browned butter, fresh sage, capers, lemon squeeze and parm…well rinsed anchovies melted with the browned butter also work…as well as some crushed red pepper
P.S. (As I proofread my post…I feel compelled to do this to not come across as an a-hole…) I’m not trying to flame anybody above…everyone’s suggestions are good…cooking isn’t a right/wrong science…it’s definately an art (although you get a degree in Culinary Science when you graduate…but I digress)…which is why I love it so much…but with any art…there are fundamental things that one can do to get themselves to a point where they can maximize their benefit out of that art. So if you make your pasta a different way than detailed here…and you love it…you’ve maximized your benefit…good for you. That’s the whole point. But with any skill…the more you do it…typically the better you get…thus, my post.
Bye…have a great week.